After city overturned 113 years of precedent!
Let’s close the loop on the canceled memorial cenotaph at the Confederate Rest section of Forest Hill Cemetery. A judge this week denied a lawsuit filed by attorney Todd Hunter seeking its restoration. We broke that story here.
Sad to say: It was the right judicial ruling about a wrong-headed legislative decision.
Our Woke city government was all caught up in the nationwide frenzy to remove statutes of victorious Confederate generals astride rearing horses. Nearest they could find here in Madison WI was a stone bearing the names of 140 Johnny Rebs who died as prisoners of war at the Union Army’s Camp Randall, now site of the Badger football stadium.
No glorification of the “Lost Cause,” no defense of slavery, no brief for states’ rights. Just the names of the dead and this inscription:
Erected in loving memory by
United Daughters of Confederacy
to Alice Whiting Waterman and ‘her boys’
Mrs. Waterman being the woman who tended to the formerly neglected plot of those she called “her boys” buried in the northernmost Confederate war dead cemetery. She eventually attracted the sponsorship of Wisconsin governors Cadwallader Washburn and Lucius Vilas. (What names they had then!) Both had been Union generals — the former at Vicksburg, the latter lost an arm at Gettysburg and remained an stalwart supporter of Reconstruction. After her death, a subscription campaign realized Mrs. Waterman’s dream of a permanent stone to replace the second generation of individual wooden markers that had weathered out.
Two years after the memorial’s dedication in 1906 by veterans of the Union cause, Congress authorized the individual stone grave markers that remain today. The city’s historic preservation committee objected to the large memorial’s removal in 2019 but virtues needed signaling!
City history rewriters objected to the mention of the Daughters who, it is true, attempted to whitewash the the Confederacy in most of their efforts. But not on this stone.
Be that as it may (and it might!), Judge Valerie Bailey-Rihn properly ruled that the decision was a legislative matter and the council was entitled to make the wrong decision. (That’s democracy!) The judge also ruled that Todd Hunter lacked standing to bring the case. Might have been a different story had he been a descendant of one of those resting at Confederate Rest. Could have argued that his ancestors paid for that stone and that the city accepted its placement in 1906 and could not renege now.
Blaska’s Bottom Line: Some day, this sorry chapter will be recounted in explanatory panels accompanying the return of the cenotaph, but that won’t be any time soon.